Let me guess: You’re about to stop reading because you’ve had more than enough of mindfulness talk and it’s really something for people who do yoga and nothing to do with gym training or any other type of fitness regime. Bear with me for a few minutes, and I’ll tell you exactly what it has to do with your training and how it can benefit you – whether you’re a yogi or not!
Those who know me, or follow this blog, know that I am blind About Me. They say that your other senses help to compensate for the loss of sight, and to an extent that is true. I lost my sight suddenly at the age of 26 and it took some adjustment to adapt to this new way of life. My body was used to exercising – I had been working out long before it happened – and so when I went back to it, it felt great. But I noticed a difference. I was suddenly so much more aware of the movements of my body, how the equipment felt, and the sounds and sensations of what was going on around me. My mind was much more focused on what I was doing and how it felt while doing it, and I actually felt even better for it after a workout.
What does this all have to do with mindfulness?
Mindfulness is nothing more than being present and aware of what you are doing. You can practise mindfulness making a cup of tea just as much as when you are deep in meditation. Still with me? Let’s see how it can benefit your workout…
Being mindful, no matter what you are doing, means that you are more careful, more attentive to the activity. When it comes to training, that means that you are exercising in a safer way because you are paying close attention to your movements. The result? Fewer injuries, more targeted workouts.
How to be mindful while training
You will hear many people say that to be mindful you must clear your head of all other thoughts. That’s not quite true. You will always have thoughts popping into your head, it’s how the mind works! Acknowledge the thought and put it to one side, bringing your attention back to what you were doing. How do the weights feel in your hands? What’s the sensation of the ground (or treadmill) on your feet and body as you run? Are you contracting all the right muscles to complete an exercise or is your mind wandering while you finish your set in a daze, thinking of what to have for dinner?
Use your breath to help you
If you’re having trouble keeping those pesky thoughts aside while you train, focus on your breathing. Turning your attention to the breath will give your mind something to do so it does not get distracted by looking for something to focus on. Remember to breathe in when extending and out when squeezing the muscles or body. Now you can pay closer attention to the exercise at hand.
Tips on training mindfully
Make each training session count. Try the following to help incorporate mindfulness into your exercise routine:
1. During your warm-up focus on how your body feels. Are you tired after a long day, stressed after a tough meeting, or energised and raring to go? Each day will feel different and taking the time to think about how you feel and what your body can do in that session will help you make sure you are not overstretching yourself, potentially causing injury. Likewise, it may mean that you are up for a more strenuous session when you may have just gone through the motions otherwise.
2. Turn off your music if you can. If you must have it, try something instrumental instead of songs with lyrics that are more likely to make you want to sing along or pull your mind in different directions. Music can help
focus attention when used in the background. You can always pause it during your working sets so that you can use your breath to help you focus, then turn it back on again during your recovery – that way you get the best of both worlds!
3. Remember the breath. If you notice your mind wandering, come back to your breath. Try to keep it steady, matching the length of your inhales with those of your exhales.
4. Focus on the muscles you are targeting. Draw your attention to the muscles contracting and relaxing. Do this for each repetition, remembering to breathe evenly. If you are doing cardio, think about where you are placing your feet or how your legs move on a bike or elliptical machine. Make sure you are using your hips and whole leg to prevent injury or unnecessary fatigue. What are your arms doing? Are they limp and ineffective or are they engaged and actively helping you exercise your full body?
The benefits of training mindfully
As I’ve already said, paying closer attention to what you are doing and how will reduce the chances of injury and lead to more targeted and effective training. This could mean that you achieve your goals sooner than you thought!
There is one other important benefit. You will leave the gym with a clearer mind. It will give you the mental clarity I bet you didn’t have when you left the office after yet another long day. It’s a similar feeling to what you get when you meditate – that lucidity that makes you feel ready to take on the world and the zingy energy to do it!
Want some help?
We could all use a helping hand from time to time. If that’s what you need right now and would like a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals, someone to show you how to focus and get into the right habits, or even a little guidance on how to be more mindful, get in touch with me at Simply FITT. If you want to go even further, why not try life coaching Life Coach to help improve mind and body? Whatever you need to get you back on track with your fitness, give me a call on 07881 100746 or drop me a line at and together we can make it happen.